Excellence in Ministry

June 1, 2011 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

Me and el staff team are reading a book about church, leadership, focus on lost people, etc.  That’s right. We read books.  This will be the 4th book we’ve read together as a staff in the last 8 months.  We read sections and discuss them each week at staff meeting.

Today we ended up talking about “excellence.”  That is a leadership buzzword at least in church circles.  Simply put, you want what you do at your church to be done very well.  You want the music at your church, whatever the style, to be done well–excellent.  It is the same with your teaching, you want it to be excellent.  The same goes for small groups/Sunday school or children’s and youth ministries.  If you are going to do it, do it with excellence.

This isn’t about style. This is about whatever your style, you do it excellently.

Here is the question(s): Does that strike you as secular or unspiritual?  Does that kind of talk belong in talking about church or ministry?  Do such things matter?

If you object, what I want you to suggest is the alternative.  Instead of being excellent, ministries should  _________.  There are lots of things you could put in that blank, for example, “love Jesus,” “be focused on people,” or “provide snacks.”  However, all of those, especially snacks, can go hand in hand with excellence.

Do you think it is important, but overemphasized? Underemphasized?  What do you expect or anticipate from the church that you attend?

Someone recently said that commenting on blogs is “over.”  If it is, then this will have been a waste of time, but then I’ll know.  I really do want to know what you think.  So, let’s discuss.

Social Media, Blogging, Ministry and Work

August 18, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

Monday night was not the first time that is happened, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.  All it is is the most recent.  It wasn’t a public rebuke.  I don’t know if you could even consider it a rebuke per se.  More than anything it was an encouragement to be better and to be a more effective successful pastor.  Now mind you, I have been rebuked before.  I have also been just asked questions about this before.  This was somewhere in between.

The issue, and I’ve probably been asked this 5 or 6 times, has to do with blogging, ministry, social networking, etc.  If someone is a pastor or a minister, is it “work” to be on Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc.?  This brings up a much broader question about what is and is not work.  If I’m out to eat with my family and someone from the church comes up and talks to us for 10-15 minutes, is that work?  If I am at home sort of watching TV, but rehearsing my intro to my sermon in my head, is that work?  Is having coffee with a guy from the church talking about sports work?  Is it only work if it’s in an office with papers and/or computer?  Some of my job can easily look like fun, does that make it “not work?”  If a pastor is going to be honest, he will often admit that this issue is a struggle.

However, we are talking about something specific–social networking.  If I am on my computer, replying to people’s emails or working on a sermon, and I click over to the Facebook (friend me here.) or Twitter (here) and talk about what I am doing, is that work or not?  If I blog about something related to church, and ask people to read it, is that work?  What if it’s a devotional?  What if it’s silliness?  What if it’s all three? Let me give you my reasoning (defense?) for why I do what I do.

I view my job as being somewhat complex and relatively nebulous (vague, undefined).  However, the goals are pretty clear.  I am to help people have a relationship with Jesus, grow in that relationship, and then help them help others have that relationship.  How one best does that is a matter of style, effectiveness, personality and a lot of factors.  I believe that I need to teach and inspire.  I also believe that the best way to do that is through relationships.  I want to know people and for them to know me.  I believe that gives me a stronger platform for teaching and influence.

Therefore during the day, I will take time out to post something about what’s going on with me and will check on what people are doing.  Sometimes it’s informational.  Sometimes it’s humorous.  Sometimes it’s an invitation to church, a ministry or to read something that I wrote on my blog.  Most of what I write on cloften.com are short devotional thoughts that I hope can help people grow in their walks with God.  Short, on-line devotionals.  To me, there is little doubt that the writing of a devotional and the encouraging the reading of said devotional is “work.”  If not, then the preparation and delivery of sermons would have to be called into question.  To me that is an easy way to take a few minutes and connect with about 200 or so people and help encourage them.

FB posts and Tweets that are not of an overtly spiritual nature feel like a good thing for me to do as well.  I am connecting with people where they are–on-line.  If there were a few hundred people gathered somewhere and I went to talk to them, I would consider that productive, even if it were just to say hi.  If I then got to share a thought about God with them, all the better.  It is my desire to be with people, connect with people, be it “live,” on-line, on the phone, whichever.  To me Social Networking is a highly effective ways to do what God has called me to do as a pastor.

Now, let the debate begin.  Does this ring true to you?  Does it seem like the ramblings of a guy who likes to justify goofin’ around on the computer?  What do you think when you see a pastor that does a lot of that?

Please, let me know what you think.  My guess is there are churches our there banning FB at the church office and those that require Twitter accounts for all staff and everything in between.  What do you think?  If you want to say something that you feel would be a public rebuke, don’t sweat it.  If you want to make it anonymous, you can.  I will make sure it still ends up in the comments.  Now…go!

Embracing the Fishbowl

June 3, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

Well, my older daughter has a FB page now.  We had a deal worked out, in part because of the move and also as a reward for good grades.  You might would think that this is about to turn into a sappy blog post where I lament how old she is getting.  I’m going to save that one for when she asks to get her driver’s permit.  I know that some people are hesitant to allow there kids access to the social media.  However, the overwhelming number of people in her class already had one, so it can’t be too widespread.

Most people’s concerns come down to privacy issues.  People don’t want their children’s info or pictures “out there.”  The world is a scary place and there are a good number of Mervy McChestersons out there on the internets.  However we have some good controls in place that we feel good about.

But really, she is already “out there.”  If you don’t believe me, look at the banner on the top of this page.  There they are.   Click on the tag “parenting” or “daughters” at the bottom of this post.  Her pictures are out there, stories are out there.  Our life is the proverbial fish bowl.

Often I have heard pastors and their families complain about the fishbowl.  Why is everybody watching our every move?  Why do they scrutinize us so?  People get frustrated and discouraged by people watching them and feel like it is undeserved and unwanted pressure.

We say, “Bring it on.”  I don’t say that because I’m perfect.  I’m not.  We’re not.  If you look (and not very hard) you will see a man full of flaws with a family that is working on stuff the way that all families are.  However, I’m going to tell you about them, perhaps even before you see them.  You are going to know me and who I am, what I’m good at and what I’m not.  The same for my family.  We are out there for the world to see.

This calls us up.  We know that the world and the church need leaders and examples to follow.  However, no one needs someone who is pretending to be something that they are not, pretending to be perfect, pretending to have it all together.  The problem with living in a fishbowl is not that people can see, it is when you have things to hide.  Mind you, I go to lengths to protect my girls’ privacy.  They are never the villains in my stories.  If it is embarassing to them, you won’t hear about it from me.

But we as a family have been called by God to lead people and a local church.  Our lives are public lives.  Here’s the kicker.  So is yours.  Jesus said that you are the light of the world.  People are looking to you to find answers.  What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus?  Can Jesus in your life really make a difference?  People are watching.  What are they seeing?

What I hope they see in us is a family that is not perfect, but is honest.  A family that loves God and loves each other.  A family that wants to honor God and be the people that he has called us to be.  We can’t fight the fishbowl, because that is where we live.  That’s where you live too.

Embrace the fishbowl.  Be transparent.   Be real.  Be somebody that people want to be.